Today, I watched a former video nasty and came to the conclusion that we were all once so naive that we believed all the hype. Had The Evil Dead been released in the Internet age it probably would have been labelled a comedy immediately rather than it taking 20 years to achieve that status.
Watching this Sam Raimi début was a reminder of an event that happened a long time ago, in a world that has been rebuilt now.
Back in the early 1980s, I was loosely associated with a group of individuals who called themselves The Core. These included Mitch Jenkins, Alex Novak, Barry Hale and someone else, it might have been Tim Perkins, but equally it might not have been. It might have been Pat Fish, but if it was I'm sure I would have remembered. Anyhow, these talented and endearing individuals launched a series of arty events called Happenings and they were incredibly well received throughout the town of Northampton. Then they got bored with them and went off and did their own things.
I was unemployed at the time and decided that, 'hey, I can do that', so I concocted The Happening 3: The Final Con Trick, which was to take place at the College of Further Education's Arts Centre, on Booth Lane, which has since (very recently) been rebuilt as a modern carbuncle. We had various things planned for it - a puppeteer, John (Alex's brother) Novak's band, a up and coming band from Luton, an exhibition of photography called Nahwretam and the Sex Queue, an alternative comedy duo called The Great Excreto and Labia (I'll tell you about them and Dick & Bob at some point), a local Lesbian musical act, kidneys in toilets, a selection of poetry written by Marc Almond and the first unofficial screening of Sam Raimi's banned The Evil Dead. It was going to be an arts extravaganza beyond belief.
It was a complete and total disaster!
For starters, we were frugal with the truth and didn't mention on the posters or PR that Marc Almond wasn't actually going to be there in person. This pissed off a lot of people. Secondly, the band from Luton didn't even bother unpacking their kit, they just took the piss and left. they never came to much and I laugh still. The guy dealing with the PA and sound threatened to leave unless he was paid before the show/event started and I had to resort to threatening him with physical violence and because of these problems at least half of the people waiting fucked off before it even started; leaving us with a huge deficit in money.
But, the puppeteer, a guy called Garafalo (no relation) was brilliant and got the crowd going. John Novak's band played and went down a storm and by this time I'd managed to pay the sound guy, so he didn't sneak out the back door. The lesbian cabaret act came on and also went down very well and despite the feeling of total amateur night, things were going swimmingly. The fact that I was short £100 and probably couldn't pay every one was a minor quibble.
Then things started to go wrong, very badly. We started the screening of The Evil Dead and the theatre area of the arts centre was packed out with paying customers - people were still arriving and the short fall was down to £60. It was also packed out with the lesbian cabaret act, [plus their entourage and when the part in the film where one of the girls is 'raped' by a tree appeared, all hell broke loose.
My partner in crime, Colin O'Kane, said that they wanted to have a word with me and he didn't sound as though they wanted to offer congratulations. I was a little worried as he was 50% responsible for this debacle, but seemed intent on differing everyone in my direction. He wasn't into confrontations, so he sent them all in my direction. I was in the toilets, peeing on some of the kidneys in the urinals, when the door swung open and 3 burly lesbians came stampeding into the men's loos. The only thing I can remember clearly was one of them referring to the 'tree rape' scene and shouting in my face that, "stuff like that really happens!". Maybe the best answer was not to say, "What trees rape women?" Because she had to be restrained from beating me to death with her dungarees.
During all of this, Mitch J and Barry H of the original Core were standing around laughing like proverbial drains at the whole sorry mess. I was furious at Colin for his lack of balls and ducking out of the firing line, despite him being 50% responsible (should have taken heed from this, he was even worse as my best man). But there wasn't much I could do about it, apart from escape.
And that's exactly what I did. Upon finding Colin, who by this time had gotten pissed out of his head (very much what he did at my wedding), I gave him the remainder of the money and asked him to hold onto it in case of a robbery. I explained that we were going to have to share it out between everyone rather than give any preferential treatment. This seemed to convince him that holding the cash wasn't a bad idea and I then crawled into the back of Mitch's Triumph Dolomite, hid under a blanket and was driven away from there as fast as his little motor would go.
I don't know how Colin dealt with everything; it was sort of one of those incidents from our youth that went by the by and was never spoken of again; and, of course, the above is a fairly abridged version, owing to memories not being as sharp as they once were.
Anyhow, watching The Evil Dead today was a bit of a nostalgia trip and made me realise what a complete and utter pile of shit it is. It's quite brilliant in places, but it's also turd-like; immensely turd-like. Only Bruce Campbell comes out of it with any cred and only just; the general acting and pacing is all over the place; the stop motion camera work is hilarious and even the bits which got it banned in the first place are poor, very poor. There is the very nasty rape scene, the one the lesbians got so riled up about and, to be fair, it, in a way, was totally unnecessary; but it was also quite comical, if a rape can be comical.
The film does have a great sense of presence; but it also stinks. All the tension it tries to deliver fails miserably and you wonder how Raimi could possibly have believed in his own script when shooting it. Anyhow, I'm going to watch The Evil Dead II later (or tomorrow) and marvel at how it can be called a sequel, when in reality it was just a (badly re-imagined) remake of the first with a bigger budget.